Antidepressant, anxiolytic and procognitive effects of subacute and chronic ketamine in the chronic mild stress model of depression

This vehicle-controlled rodent study (n=16) compared the antidepressant and anxiolytic effects of ketamine (5, 10, 15 or 30 mg/kg) to the antidepressant imipramine (10 mg/kg), using chronic exposure to mild stress as a depression model and assessing their cognitive capacity of novel object recognition and their natural aversion to open spaces. Results indicated a sustained antidepressant-like effect of ketamine at an optimum dose of 10 mg/kg, which reversed the anxiogenic and dyscognitive effects of chronic mild stress exposure much faster than the classical antidepressant imipramine.


Introduction: Ketamine is the prototype of a new generation of antidepressant drugs, which is reported in clinical studies to be effective in treatment-resistant patients, with an effect that appears within hours and lasts for a few days. Chronic mild stress (CMS) is a well-established and widely used animal model of depression, in which anhedonia, anxiogenesis and cognitive dysfunction can be observed reliably. Studies using acute or brief ketamine treatment following withdrawal from CMS have replicated the clinical finding of a rapid onset of antidepressant action. However, there have been no CMS studies of chronic daily ketamine treatment or continued stress following ketamine treatment, which would have greater translational potential in relation to the long-term maintenance of antidepressant effects.

Methods: Wistar rats were drug treated following an initial 2 weeks of CMS exposure, which continued alongside daily drug treatment. A first experiment tested a range of chronic (5 weeks) ketamine doses (5–30 mg/kg); a second compared the effects of subacute (3–5 days) and chronic (5 weeks) treatment.

Results: CMS-induced anhedonic, anxiogenic and dyscognitive effects, as measured, respectively, by decreased sucrose intake, avoidance of open arms in the elevated plus maze and loss of discrimination in the novel object recognition test. A sustained antidepressant-like effect of ketamine in the sucrose intake test was observed in both experiments, with an onset at around 1 week, faster than imipramine, and an optimum dose of 10 mg/kg. Anxiogenic and dyscognitive effects of CMS, in the elevated plus maze and novel object recognition test, respectively, were fully reversed by both subacute and chronic ketamine treatment. Daily treatment with ketamine in the CMS model causes sustained long-term antidepressant, anxiolytic and procognitive effects.

Discussion: The demonstration of a procognitive effect of ketamine may have particular translational value.”

Authors: Mariusz Papp, Piotr Gruca, Magdalena Lason-Tyburkiewicz & Paul Willner

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